Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Ralph Barton Perry

American Philosopher and Educator

"Humanitarianism needs no apology... Unless we... feel it toward all men without exception, we shall have lost the chief redeeming force in human history."

"Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etchings of experience and the firm line of character."

"Religion is man’s sense of the disposition of the universe to himself."

"No one has taken the name of the Lord his God in vain so frequently and so unconcernedly as the philosopher."

"A good thing perpetually postponed is only a negation. Universal happiness, or the welfare of mankind, includes the present as well as the future."

"The most indisputable fact about man is that he is a union, and not a disjunction of... contrasted aspects, which are complementaries and not mutually exclusive alternatives. Man is both lower and higher, both body and spirit, both outer and inner, both mechanical and purposive."

"Ideals are ideas or beliefs when these are objects not only of contemplation or affirmation but also of hope, desire, endeavor, admiration and resolve."

"Faith is belief, and belief has, over and above its intellectual character, an aspect of irmness, persistence, and subjective certainty."

"A man can do his best only by confidently seeking (and perpetually missing) unattainable perfection."

"Whether the worship of a God is a good thing or not depends on how God is conceived."

"As a reformer the liberal is dissatisfied with things as they are because they violate his exceptionally tender conscience.... Liberalism does not advocate change for its own sake, but for the sake of something better in the direction of what he regards as good, namely, the maximum of liberty consistent with a regard for all men and all interests -- the general happiness based on peace and justice."

"I prefer credulity to skepticism and cynicism for there is more promise in almost anything than in nothing at all."

"Puritanism prolonged in America the medieval Christian view of the world and of human destiny. It taught men to distrust their natural inclinations as well as their natural faculties, and to find their origin and their salvation in a supernatural order.... The Enlightenment, on the other hand, was humane, optimistic, and eudaemonistic. The fact that Benjamin Franklin formulated maxims for conduct only served to accentuate the difference in the ultimate ground of moral appeal. The puritan maxims consisted largely in prohibitions, and were imposed by the will of God; the maxims of the new philosophy were recipes for success, discovered by common sense, and motivated by the end of happiness."

"The fundamental idea of modern capitalism is not the right of the individual to possess and enjoy what he has earned, but the thesis that the exercise of this right redounds to the general good."

"Voting is the least arduous of a citizen's duties. He has the prior and harder duty of making up his mind."

"What is needed in the present plight of mankind is not more science but a change of heart that shall move mankind to devote to constructive and peaceful purposes."

"Wherever you are it is your own friends who make your world."